Drinking History: The 15 Oldest Bars in the World
It’s not unusual to pass a bar these days with a front sign that says “Est. 2014.” You want to be able to go up to the owners of that bar and tell them that it’s not necessarily impressive that they haven’t had the time to fail yet, and that, unless they are playing the long game and have the idea of using that exact same sign for a few hundred years, it’s not necessarily the best advertising technique either.
What’s alluring about “Established” signs is not the fact that something was as some point established, but the year it was established in. What’s alluring is the time that has passed with that establishment sitting there in that exact spot. What’s alluring is the thought of great local citizens having drunk in the same spot as you, possibly imbibing the same traditional drinks. The “Established” sign is like saying “George Washington ate here,” but instead of it just being George Washington, it’s potentially every person of note who passed by in the intervening years.
In the United States, this doesn’t mean as much as it does in Europe or the rest of the world; in a city like London, where so many great people have lived and died, “Established” signs that commonly will date back hundreds of years hint at a much grander story, and it’s a story that they simply won’t tell. You just have to imagine what great poets, kings, and criminals sat in your very barstool.
That is why the world’s oldest bars are so impressive. They may date back more than centuries: they may date back millennia. They may have slipped in and out of memory over the course of time, but they haven’t budged. This is why we’ve decided to make a list of the world’s oldest bars, though it turns out that’s a tougher task than you might expect: first off, many bars simply don’t have the documentation to prove how old they are, and second, many bars may have spent periods of time not as public houses or restaurants, but as domiciles or derelict buildings. So here are some of the world’s oldest bars, as close as we can approximate, and as close as the good folks at Guinness World Records can confirm.
Matt Hershberger is a contributing writer to The Daily Meal. You can follow him at @MattHershberger
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
The oldest continuously occupied bar in the United States is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It’s young compared to the other bars on our list, having been founded in 1772 — but it was purportedly once owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte, who supposedly planned raids there. Lafitte was an illicit slave-runner, and he called the shop a “Blacksmith” shop because Lafitte’s Pirate Shop probably would have drawn the attention of the authorities.
White Horse Tavern
The oldest tavern in America period is the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, which was constructed around 1673. It was another pirate hangout, but most notably was used as a boarding house for British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. The building eventually was sold and turned into a rooming house in 1895, but was bought and turned back into a pub in 1957. This period in between is why Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar technically gets disqualified from definitive “oldest bar” distinction.